by Anshel M.
My. G-d. What have I gotten myself into? Nervous as you can possibly imagine, I called this shadchan (“she is NOT a shadchan”) on the insistence of my friend’s mother (“Oh please, don’t call me Mrs. Bornstein! Just call me Rebbetzin Mrs. Bornstein!”), and had been listening for the past ten minutes straight as the highly-acclaimed holder of the keys to courtship dutifully put dinner on the table, chased two little ones into their rooms and talked another one out of a bedtime story all while untangling a teething baby from her sheitl and performing countless other home-making activities I’m sure I just couldn’t see. She finally returned to the phone with an heaving: “Yeah?”
I don’t really know how I thought my first call to a shadchan would work, but I guess I had at least expected someone to answer in a soft and mature voice, a voice whose very exhale said “Don’t worry, Bubbeleh, we’re gonna find you somebody nice even if you ARE a ba’al t’shuvah. I’ve seen this work out very well before.” Then maybe she’d put me on hold for a while with the soft strains of nugginim playing over the line. Instead I was on the line with this poor, overworked woman and I was starting to realize as she caught her breath that she sounds like she’s younger than me. I’m having a hard time with the idea that I’m an “older” single in the frum world.
I mentioned my name and the rebbetzin’s name and the shadchan nodded into the phone. Oh yeah, she said, she’d heard of me. Yikes. I wondered what Bornstein had told her, and started to picture the rebbetzin in the background, mouthing the words ‘I’m not here’ and making the throat-cutting gesture. I nearly hung up right then. This was almost surreal. My parents didn’t have any stories about having to call up strangers during their dinner hour for them to get married. I’m pretty sure they just went dancing and drove around a lot.
The shadchan spilled her entire method to me right off the bat: she doesn’t go by profiles, she goes by getting to know the people involved, she spends time with you doing things and when an idea comes to mind, she’ll put you on a date. “Basically I date both the guy and the girl”, she summarized. I was dying to ask if that was okay with her husband, but I could just picture the look on my rabbi’s face if he’d overheard it. He was always telling me I was never serious when the moment called for seriousness. He was also the one that told me to remove the picture of me on a mechanical bull from my shidduch profile. He warned that they’d think I wasn’t serious. I’m not serious. Shouldn’t they know that?
“Don’t you hate formal dating”, she started, “where it goes through the involvement of practically every person in the community and then four months down the line when your date finally gets approved, nobody calls anybody by then anyway, you know, because they’re just over it?” I almost know what she’s saying only because I’ve just recently been through a round of ‘Have-Your-Rav-Call-My-Rabbi’. It was nauseating and nerve-wracking and started me on this recurring nightmare that the rest of my life will be decided by a closely-guarded chess match held in a heavily wooded Russian town. We never ended up meeting, and that took only four days, not four months. So do I hate formal dating? No. It’s the best. Makes me want to get right back out there.
She explained that her way of doing it gave people back control. That if they met and they liked each other, they could decide for themselves. If they wanted references, fine, but she didn’t want to get into doing any of that. These were people that she’d already met and spent time with who knew and hung out with other friends of hers as well. These people come with a background check already built in with parents that weren’t involved in the process at all. She didn’t want paperwork, she wanted you meeting people and out on dates. She boasted, “Last year we married off six people!” I wanted to ask her if that meant three couples, but she seemed excited by her good fortune and I didn’t want to ask her to cut her successes by half. It was obvious though, that I had stepped in a bit of shadchan-ese, the language (and art form) of stretching the truth to make people hopeful and later, happy. I’d ignore that for now.
Her husband was apparently hopping up and down for his dinner by that time, because she quickly wrapped it up with: “So let’s have you over for a shabbos soon then, okay? I’m going to call you again tomorrow after I get back from David’s Bridal with my last single friend, she’s getting married, can you believe it? I know, and we just put her on a date with him two weeks ago. [Stifles a giggle or a sob, I’m not sure which] Yeah, she’s the last of our friends to get married, so we need to find new people for our table…” Talk of formalwear this early in the game makes me dizzy so I quickly gave her my schedule and excused myself from the call.
Adding one last disclaimer: “This is just what I do because I’m good at it; it just seems to work out for me. I’m so NOT a shadchan…”
Well, thank G-d for that.